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Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Wade of Chorlton: My Lords, that is a success which, 12 months ago, none of us would ever have thought possible. Similarly, it will bring great prosperity to that splendid country and an opportunity for the future. It has already suffered far more than its share of unhappiness and distress.

I believe that all Members of the House—well, nearly all —will welcome the four new members of the European Union. We trust that they will work with Britain for a European Union which listens to the needs of all the people, seeks to curb unnecessary regulatory excesses and allows European business to compete aggressively around the world. In particular, we trust that they will assist the British Government to promote a better budgetary discipline and deal more effectively in combating fraud. The latter has become such an important matter to the European taxpayer. Because of such fraud, it is my view that the Commission should look more closely at its own efficiency and at the way in which the grant schemes and the subsidy payments are controlled.

In the coming 12 months we shall be discussing many matters relating to the European Union. I know that there are different views. However, it is my belief that the whole of Europe will be better, more prosperous and give a better future for all those involved in it, the closer the relationship between the countries of Europe becomes. Although we need to be careful about how such matters are dealt with, I think that we should meet them in a positive and confident way.

The extension of Europe, linked with the growing business in Central and Eastern Europe, emphasises the need for Britain to be able to transport our manufactured goods cheaply and easily to a growing number of customers. The project to build a new fast rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel will be the flagship of the private finance initiative. When taking that project forward, I hope that the Government will see the importance of linking all the regions of Britain into Europe via the Channel Tunnel. We in the North West are very aware of the importance of this initiative.

From the debate that we had recently in the House, it was clear that your Lordships welcome the Europe agreements between the European Union and Central European countries. It was also clear that your Lordships recognise the importance that those agreements can make in improving the economies of

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those countries and that such economic success will bring benefit to us all. However, we are all equally aware that some of the existing structures within the European Union will have to be radically altered if those agreements are to work effectively.

Hand in hand with our increased trade with Central Europe will come the enormous trade benefits as a result of the GATT agreement. It is vital to the whole world that the United States Government ratify the GATT agreement as soon as possible and that they give enthusiastic support to greater trade throughout the world. We are delighted that the Government will work to that aim and for an early establishment of the World Trade Organisation which must now be quickly set up to drive those issues forward. Traditionally, there have always been very strong links between the United Kingdom and the United States of America. As we can work together to bring those matters forward in the world, I believe that that will indicate again what enormous benefit we bring when we do work together.

As global trade increases, so will our awareness of the world and of the various populations and peoples of the world, together with the many areas of deprivation and human tragedy that lie within those parts of the world. I believe that, as the British people understand more the issues that have to be resolved, we shall receive greater support for the concept of aiding and supporting development within such areas. I know that my noble friend Lady Chalker is an enormous enthusiast of that approach. We shall have many opportunities to support her in the year ahead.

Drug abuse is now becoming one of the most serious matters in Britain. Apart from the enormous damage that it does to those who take drugs, it damages us all by the amount of crime that is now drug related. There are also the costs that have to be borne, not just by those who have suffered as a result of the crime but by everyone else. The Greater Manchester Police have made great strides in tackling drug abuse and are to be congratulated on the work that they have undertaken. Traditionally, we have fought against the supply of drugs. However, under the new government proposals we shall be tackling the users of drugs by a powerful educational programme which I am sure will be greatly welcomed by all those agencies dealing with that most important issue.

The enormous levels of economic growth now apparent in the Asia Pacific countries and China must be seen as a great opportunity for Britain and the European Union. Quite clearly, the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 is a delicate issue to handle. We must give all encouragement to the Government and to Mr. Chris Patten in dealing successfully with the matter over the next few years.

The Crown Agents have played a very important role in developing the UK's relationship with economies throughout the world and have been a major international supplier of procurement, financial management and technical services to clients in some 150 countries. The creation of an independent foundation with a social purpose and developmental character will give the opportunity further to improve

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their work and the services that they provide. Similarly, I welcome the Government's proposals to take the Atomic Energy Authority into the private sector. The authority does great work in the North West as regards the development of new technology and in working with small companies to help them develop their own technology. As a private company, I believe that it will be even more effective in that direction.

When he made the same proposition last year, my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein likened the legislative programme to a menu of gastronomic delights. As a cheesemaker, I liken it to the making of a range of different cheeses. They all start from milk, but a whole range of varieties can be made by slight changes of starters, temperature and time and, most importantly, by the skill of the cheesemaker and his understanding of the customer.

As these cheeses are presented before us, some noble Lords will nibble at them a little, some will tackle them with great relish, some will be ignored entirely. Some of them will have a short life and some will be what we call long keepers. However, I am confident that whatever cheese is presented before this House, we will treat them all as connoisseurs and give them the attention that they justly deserve.

In my view the Cheddar of the range is the importance of maintaining a firm financial policy, low inflation and the encouragement of investment which will ensure continuous economic growth and rising employment. One of the key elements in this is a continuing reduction in government expenditure and the attraction of inward investment, and I am delighted that the Government have mentioned both those points in the gracious Speech.

The North West, and particularly Merseyside, have been extremely successful in attracting new investment which has resulted in new businesses and many jobs. The Objective One status which now applies in Merseyside must be used to encourage further investment and the further development of new businesses.

It is to be hoped that the proposals for a Jobseeker's Allowance and the equalisation of state pensions as well as other pensions proposals will, on the one hand, encourage more people to seek job opportunities and at the same time help to give people security for the future. However, in making these changes I hope that the Government will appreciate that the vast majority of pension funds are extremely well run with very high levels of integrity and service.

The agricultural tenancy Bill is slightly more specialist but one which the industry welcomes and will bring a much needed flexibility into the tenancy market. The agricultural industry has been buffeted in recent years but it is still Britain's most important industry. Perhaps this Bill might be described as the Lancashire cheese of the range; that is, not well known but greatly enjoyed by those who learn to appreciate it, as many noble Lords have done in the past few years.

The establishment of an Environment Agency I will describe as the yoghurt. It is a new, innovative and exciting area of legislation with an infinite variety of flavours. It must be used to encourage high levels of

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environmental quality while not preventing necessary development and economic growth. It must also encourage the use of new technologies which can make such an important contribution to the improvement of our environment such as combined heat and power, waste to energy technology and the development of biotechnology. Since privatisation the gas industry has made enormous strides which have brought benefits to everyone. Prices are falling, customers are benefiting and British Gas itself is building an enormous global empire which will bring rewards back to Britain. The proposals to bring forward legislation to promote increased competition in the gas industry will open up further opportunities, although caution will be necessary in some areas.

In recent years our economy has gone through some difficult times. Many businesses have suffered, people have lost their jobs and their families have also suffered. However, I am confident that the policies that the Government have pursued in the past couple of years are now creating a foundation for strong and positive growth into the future. Our manufacturing industries have improved their productivity enormously and are continuing to invest heavily in new technology. There are many voices in Britain today that advocate a return to the past and look with fear and trepidation towards the future. Ever increasing world trade, enormous technological achievements and the ability and enthusiasm of our younger generation will, I believe, enable Britain to make full use of the opportunities that are now before us, and I look forward to a future that can bring prosperity to more and more British people.

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion for a humble Address to Her Majesty.

Moved, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in the following terms:

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".—(Lord Wade of Chorlton.)

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